Pre and Post exercise nutrition matters

Pre and pos workout food

One of the most common questions between people who are engaged in any type of physical activity is “What do I eat before and after my workouts?” The pre and post workout period is the time when you really need to be sure you are eating right so that you are able to get better results from your workout as well as have the energy that is necessary in order to give full effort.

Pre and post workout nutrition can be very complex and the recommendations about what to eat might vary according to the type and length of the exercise, personal goals and dietary habits. However, to keep it simple, this post is going to give you some basic nutritional tips so you can get the best results from your fitness routine!

Complex Carbohydrates     X      Simple Carbohydrates

First, let me explain the definition of both complex and simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are smaller molecules of sugar unlike the long chains in starch. They are digested quickly because the individual sugars are ready to be absorbed plus digestive enzymes have easy access to the bonds in the paired molecules! A complex carbohydrate, on the other hand, slowly breaks down and this process provides a steady source of fuel for your body.

Depending on the food you just ate and other factors, these carbohydrates will have different effects on blood sugar levels. Specifically how fast they rise and fal. The ability of a carbohydrate to raise blood sugar fast or slow is called the glycemic index (GI). The GI’s importance is related to the body’s blood sugar effects on insulin levels. Simple carbohydrates cause you to have a rush of energy and then a crash as your body runs out of fuel.  Complex carbohydrates have a more leveling effect on insulin and longer term energy.  The graphic bellow shows the effect of simple and complex carbohydrates in the blood glucose levels.

Pre-Workout Nutrition – Complex Carbs

Foods with complex carbohydrates provide some of the best energy fuel. They will keep your blood glucose levels stable and they will slowly supply your muscles with consistent energy throughout your workout. Thus, your pre-workout snack should be based on complex carbohydrates. Try to have a snack with complex carbohydrates at least 1 hour before your workout. If you eat just before your work out your body will not have time to digest the food and it will lay in your stomach because your blood has been diverted away from digestion to the working muscles, causing you to feel bloated or sick.

Here are some good slow digesting (low glycemic index) pre-workout foods:

  • Whole wheat grain bread – crackers
  • Oats
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Brown rice
  • Pasta

While foods eaten before a workout are extremely important in ensuring the body is ready for a strenuous workout, post-workout nutrition is equally important to ensure the body recovers quickly from a strength training workout.

Post-Workout Nutrition – Simple Carbohydrates + Protein

The basic goal of weight training for mass gain is to force the muscles to break themselves down (catabolism) and then rebuild (anabolism). When the workout provides sufficient trauma to the muscles, small tears in the muscle fibers and connective tissue are created. In the hours and days following the workout, the muscles will attempt to rebuild themselves and become stronger. Notice that they will “attempt” to rebuild themselves to be stronger and, in order to accomplish this goal, they need to be provided the raw materials to do the job – they need good post-workout nutrition. To make this simple, your post-workout meal should consist of protein and carbohydrates.

The muscles need carbohydrates to replace their drained fuel sources (muscle glycogen) and they need protein to begin the rebuilding process. The better the materials you provide them, the better work they will be able to do. For mass gain, your post-workout meal should contain a quality simple carbohydrate and a quality protein source. A protein shake is a good first step in post-workout nutrition!

Examples of good sources of simple carbohydrates are fruits and fruit juices, but they must be combined with a protein source. A liquid source is ideal because it can be processed and utilized by the body quicker. Studies have shown that time is truly of the essence, the sooner the body is provided with these materials the quicker it will exit its catabolic state and enter an anabolic state (the less muscle you will lose and the quicker you will start building new muscle).

Following your workout, consume your post-workout nutrition meal as soon as your stomach and schedule allow it. In short, there is no other time that the muscles are as receptive to being fed as in the post-workout period. The muscle cells are incredibly hungry for nutrition and will suck up all you can give them!

My special suggestion for your post workout snack is the Racco shake Fibralife. One serving of Fibralife (prepared with skim milk) has 14g of protein! Also, since milk contains simple sugars, this combination is a great choice for your post workout meal!

See you next week,

Rafaela Carvalho

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